Kashmiri leaders, human rights activists demand shifting of detainees amidst covid-19 outbreak

Prashasti Awasthi Mumbai | Updated on March 23, 2020

As the coronavirus epidemic intensifies in India, families of prisoners and detainees from Kashmir who are lodged in jails outside the region have appealed to the government to bring them back to the Valley, as per local media reports.

Kashmiri leaders and human rights activists have also filed petitions to bring back the prisoners located outside the region. As many as 261 prisoners have been lodged in various jails across the country under preventive detentions after the special status of Jammu and Kashmir was revoked on August 5 last year.

Union Minister G Kishan Reddy had earlier informed the Parliament in December that 261 prisoners belonging to the new UT of J&K were currently lodged in different jails of Uttar Pradesh (234) and Haryana (27). He had further added that 3,248 prisoners were incarcerated in J&K.

Khuram Parvez, human rights activist and coordinator of a coalition of civil society, said that the spread of Covid-19 was a threat to the lives of prisoners and the government should release them as most of them were under preventive detentions.

Parvez said in a statement to media: “We want their immediate release. Most of them are under preventive detentions and the best safety for them right now is the confines of their homes.”

“At this stage, no one can disturb law and order. People in big numbers everywhere is a threat owing to Corona and if it goes out of control no one will be safe,” he added.

Families of the prisoners claimed that most of the detainees belonged to the age group of 60-80 years and were susceptible to the virus.

Relatives of 73-year-old Mian Qayoom, Kashmir High Court Bar Association president who was detained under the public safety act since August and is currently lodged in Tihar Jail, said he was vulnerable.

According to Mian Muzaffar, nephew of the detainee, Qayoom is diabetic, lives on a single kidney and also has hypertension. Muzaffar added: “He is a risky patient and the coronavirus has increased our fears. Our whole extended family is disturbed.”

National Conference president and member of parliament Farooq Abdullah had also demanded last week for the shifting of prisoners to J&K.

Immediately after his release, Farooq Abdullah had sought the unity of all political leaders of J&K in demanding the shifting and ultimate release of detainees.

Addressing media, he said: “The already onerous financial burden (on the families of detainees) is made worse by the health risk they now face because of Covid-19. At a time when people are being advised not to travel these families are being forced to put their lives at risk.”

Meanwhile, VK Singh, director general of prisons in Jammu and Kashmir, refused to comment on the demand for shifting the prisoners. However, he mentioned that the families were regularly getting health updates of the detainees placed outside the region.

He said to the local media: “I can’t comment on the shifting as that is the mandate of the home department. However, we get their health bulletin daily and the detainees are fine. However, there are those with previous case histories.”

Singh said they have come up with a standard operating procedure for the prisons of the Union territory to prevent the spread of Covid-19.

“All preventive steps are being taken. We have stopped visitors from paying the prisoners a visit, thermal screening devices have been installed in some jails,” he said to local media.

Published on March 23, 2020

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